Diving locations.

Maldives

Thailand

Malapascua, Philippines

Bunaken, Sulawesi

Raja Ampat

Lembeh

 

Maldives

The Maldives are a chain of 26 coral atolls in the Indian Ocean, 400km South West of India. Although the islands sit on top of an underwater chain of mountains, the average height above sea level is only 1.5m. The isolation, distance from a major landmass, and relative lack of fishing make the reefs of the Maldives a fabulous diving area. Many major airlines fly to the Maldives capital, Malé and from there you transfer to the many hotels by boat or seaplane. Accomodation ranges from simple to very luxurious and divers can also choose to stay on a liveaboard.

Tourist islands are generally separated from local islands. The religion is Islam and while tourist islands are very westernised, care should be taken to respect local customs when travelling.

The diving

Clear waterWe have had crystal clear water and viz of 50m+ although in 2017 the waters had more plankton - good for attracting the pelagics. There are thousands of dive sites on the many reefs, islands and coral heads. Both the resorts and the livaaboards use dhonis, large, comfortable, but not very fast boats, to reach the dive sites. From the resorts you might travel between 15mins to 90 mins to get to a site. Our boats had plenty of space for relaxing, in or out of the sun, as well as kitting up, photographic equipment etc.

You can dive reefs on coral islands or on submerged reefs/pinnacles. The shallow pinnacles are called Giris and the deeper ones Thilas. Channels between reefs facing the ocean can give more spectacular dives of sharks and bigger fish. Depths can range from 30m+ on some reef walls to shallow coral gardens in 10m or less. In 2017 we saw a lot of coral bleaching but still a profusion of hard and soft coral and a huge variety of fish. Typically you can see rays, morays, sharks, turtles and a many smaller reef fish. Also in 2017 we saw a lot more sharks than in 2011 and were told that in recent years there has been a big clampdown on shark fishing.

Anenome fishCurrents can be quite strong and reef hooks are very helpful for hooking on and watching the action. Because of the remoteness and currents SMBs are also a must. Both Emperor Divers and our resort dive operator had good kit, offered Nitrox if required and had plenty of divemasters allowing for small groups. The boat crew were also friendly and helpful - tea, fruit and biscuits after every dive and cakes on two tank days!

 

Logistics

You can either stay in a resort or on a liveaboard. Liveaboards allow you to see more sites and potentially a bigger variety of diving. Most run weekly trips out of Male and ours (Emperor Divers' Virgo) did a "best of the Maldives" trip that took in a good variety of dive locations (see map below). For more details of the Virgo trip see the webpage here.

For our first visits we stayed at Soneva Fushi - very upmarket (and expensive) but a really superb resort particularly if you like the 'Robinson Crusoe chic' or 'barefoot luxury' style. Prices become a bit more affordable off season so worth considering.

December to March is the classic 'dry season'. We have been in April, May and January and each time the weather was fine. Like other places in the tropics the rain often comes sweeping in, dumps down for half an hour and then clears. A full tropical depression is less common.

You don't need to pack much for the Maldives - lots of suncream and beach stuff. If you like partying and night life then this is not the place to come.